Alumni - Profiles - John Magnan

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JOHN MAGNAN - MFA in Sculpture, 1999

On his work:

I am a full-time sculptor working from my home and studio in New Bedford. One-third of my time is devoted to managing body image | body essence, a nationally touring solo sculpture exhibit of sixteen pieces I created to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. The rest of my professional time is spent in studio, where some work is created on commission and the rest is created for sale. My current project is a large mobile to be installed permanently in the new lobby of St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford. The mobile will represent the sails of six ships and boats common to the region, with each sail made of thin carved wood. Only the sails will be represented, with no ship masts or hulls. The name of the sculpture is 'Hope,' and was inspired by my own memories of the expectation upon entering a hospital that things will be improved while there.

On his recent accomplishments:

I receive several significant commissions each year. The most recent is a fireplace mantel the customer wanted designed as a sculpture to hold other work I had made, but nothing else. They didn't want another surface in the house that encouraged the collection of clutter. I made a mantel that looks like twisted vines.

On his proudest achievement as an artist:

My proudest achievements are my traveling exhibit, body image | body essence, which now tours in memory of my late wife Mary, and my featured appearance on CBS News Sunday Morning in October 2003.


The college's MFA program helped me find my artistic voice. The freedom to explore, combined with thoughtful discussion and formal writing, enabled me to try a wide variety of creative options. I eventually recognized myself in my work and set about after graduation to follow that voice with confidence.

On CVPA faculty:

My graduate experience at UMD was truly "education in a village." I'd be hard-pressed to single out one faculty member as my most important inspiration as the interaction with several combined to have a profound effect on me. My advisor, Professor Rick Creighton, was the faculty member I saw the most, of course. His Socratic method of asking a myriad of questions forced me to come to terms with who I am as an artist. The formal comments of other professors in critique sessions often guided me to find better ways to execute my work. Behind the scenes throughout, numerous art history classes helped me identify myself in the continuum of art making. Professors Lasse Antonsen and Memory Holloway had particular impact on me in that regard.

On lessons learned in the "real world":

I learned to take my time; that the piece is going to take as long as it takes. It took me some time to learn this, especially after leaving the schedule-driven routine and semester format of school.

Advice for today's students:

Make a lot of art, and write about it as much as you can. You'll be surprised how often someone will ask you to talk about your work, either in writing or verbally.